Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Would you spend it?

A 20-year-old woman from Lancashire is awaiting sentencing after spending £135,000 that was wrongly credited to her bank account. I believe the money was spent in a two-week period.

Had Miss Lee been a millionairess, you could sort of, kind-of, at a stretch, understand how she wouldn't have noticed the extra money and overspent. But alas, she only had £6.59 in her account when she discovered the mistake, and allegedly went about spending the cash on a holiday, various appliances, and giving friends money. Continue reading.

There's a part of me that feels a bit sorry for her. I mean, with only £6.59 in her bank, she was clearly a bit down and out, shit at budgeting, or worked in media. So after finding that amount of cash in her bank she must have lost her head and just gone a bit mad. I'm sure a lot of people would have had the same impulse. However, ultimately, that money must have come from somewhere, and as it evidently didn't belong to her, what she did effectively constitutes theft, and she must now face the consequences.

Nothing for nothing as my mum is fond of saying.

'When Monogamy Becomes Monotony'

I was perusing a website called Dave's Daily which collects weird, bizarre, and funny real-life news from around the world, when I came across a link to the Ashley Madison Agency website.

It's an agency, or probably more so an online site, that's been set up for, get this, people who want to have affairs. I kid you not.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone set up a site that didn't simply masquerade as an online dating site, but got directly to the point of what a lot of people use these sites for anyway.

Their home page reads as follows: When Monogamy Becomes Monotony. For women seeking romantic affairs - and the men who want to fulfill them.

Their 'articles' page includes a list of the following links:
  • The myth of monogamy
  • Responsible non-monogamy - a brief introduction to polyamory
  • Vocabulary - a glossary of polyamory terms
  • Affairs - by Blaine Powell
  • Who cheats?
There's even a comments page, contributed to by a range of happy customers. Seeing is believing. Check it out here.

Legal notice: The producers, writers, and contributors of and to Letters from London in no way promote nor endorse affairs of the polyamory variety. Nor do we endorse any agencies promoting any such activities, unless of course said agencies send the aforementioned producers, writers and contributors hampers filled to the brim with high-end cosmetics and makeup. Jimmy Choo's also welcome, UK size 5.

Image: c/o ashleymadison.com

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Russian woman sets fire to man's penis

There's not a lot more to this story beyond the title. The poor man was sitting watching TV naked, as you do, drinking vodka, and his ex wife set his todger on fire.

Said the victim, Tvoi Den, "I was burning like a torch. I don't know what I did to deserve this."

It's not clear how she did it (other than using something flammable obviously), or why she did it. And the fate of the man's penis is equally unclear at this point. Continue reading.

Rachel Lester - Rudest X Factor contestant ever?

There's confidence, and then there's pathological over-confidence. Rachel Lester, a 25-year-old from Cardiff, hit the news this week for being possibly the rudest contestant ever to appear on The X Factor.

In this clip we see her going through the motions of her audition which is far less impressive than the amount of swear words she manages to fit into her tirade following the judge's comments. Funny and scary at the same time.

Also, check out Dannii Minogue's expression - primal fear. Classic.

If you can't see the clip, click here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

This is why we want our daughter to do pageants

This is a must see - clearly the most intelligent and articulate response to a pageant question ever.

The irony is that whether Miss South Carolina was aware of it or not (I'm betting on not), her response did in fact answer that question perfectly.

If you can't see the clip, click here.

Source: Dlisted

Friday, August 24, 2007

6 weeks without washing

For some people not bathing or washing for six weeks would be a walk in the park, or more specifically, nothing unusual. I have had the misfortune of sitting next to such people on public transport, and let me just say that I think the guys who devised prisoner torture missed a trick. Forget jump leads and sleep deprivation, the next time you want someone to spill the beans, bring them over to London at the height of summer and have them sit on the Northern Line. That's if we have a summer that is.

For the rest of us, not being able to wash or shower for six weeks would be torture in and of itself. Once, back in highschool, I tried going without washing just my hair for two weeks, after hearing how it starts to self-clean, plus I had a bet on. Fortunately the guy I was competing with (for who would last longest) caved and admitted to dipping and washing his hair in a bubble bath, and I was saved further disgusted looks from my mother, and looking as though I had submerged my head in a chip pan. It goes without saying it was a low point in my social life.

Well the woman pictured above, a documentary maker, decided to see what effects (aside from abject ponginess) it would have on her body to stop using any form of soap or cosmetics on her person for six weeks. The thinking behind it being that she wanted to see just what the myriad of chemicals in our toiletries and cosmetics do to us, and if we really need them. The experiment included not showering (at all) even after her daily run. Yep, I'm going to pass comment, or rather, pass the bucket on that one. These were her findings.

The article concludes (sorry to spoil your fun), with her once again 'enjoying long, luxurious showers every day,' but maintaining that when it comes to products and the benefits thereof, less is more.

What happens when you check out of rehab early

Holy crap! These photos of Amy Winehouse and her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, appeared this morning on the Daily Mail website.

According to the paper:
Bloody and battered after ripping into each other during a drug-fuelled row, this is Amy Winehouse, the cream of Britain's young singing talent, and her junkie husband Blake Fielder-Civil.

Stumbling around the streets of London at 4.45am, the pair bore the wounds of an almighty row which spiralled wildly out of control.

They have been holed up in a suite at a five-star hotel in Soho for the past three days after checking out of rehab for crack and heroin addiction.

The fight in the early hours of yesterday left 23-year-old Miss Winehouse with blood staining her pink ballet shoes and the knees of her jeans.

Purple bruises could be seen on the side of her neck and her knuckles were swollen.

But her 24-year-old husband appeared to have come off a lot worse - with cuts and scratches on both cheeks and around his neck. Continue reading and see more photos here.

What is it with the kids of today? They just can't handle their drugs, that's what I say. You never saw the likes of any of the Rolling Stones, or The Beatles, or The Doors checking in and out of rehab did you? Lightweights I tells ya.

Photo: The Daily Mail

The face behind Facebook

This is Mark Zuckerberg, the guy that created Facebook. Smug little shit indeed, as he's probably worth a small fortune and is only in his early to mid 20's. Inspiration to all of us the next time we're having a beer and think to ourselves, 'You know what would be a good idea...'

Thanks to the lovely Alia for the tip.

Photo c/o The Onion

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lovely weather wot?

With such lovely weather we are having here in London, it's only with immense difficulty that I am managing to sit here writing, when I could be outside frolicking in the sunshine. I look out the window and it's just so damn tempting to throw caution to the wind, go and buy a cornetto, and forget my worries under a tree in the park.

And back in the real world, it looks as though winter may have come early. Actually, what am I talking about, we never really came out of winter this year. OK, I'm being unfair. Counted back to back we probably did have 10 days of what the rest of the world might consider summer. And then people wonder why the English are so preoccupied with the weather.

This weather (read: cold, rainy and gloomy) is good for about two things - reading Kafka and watching a good movie. It was a really tough call, but we chose the latter for this evening and are going to see The Bourne Ultimatum, which I'm really looking forward to, as is Roberto. He's a big fan of the other two films in this series. I have to confess I've never seen the second one in it's entirety. Much like Top Gun, despite trying to watch it about eight times, I always manage to fall asleep at some point during. It's not that I find either of these films particularly boring either, they just seem to trigger a form of narcolepsy. Not unlike watching cricket on TV or anything to do with politics.

On a final note, if you want something very amusing to read while you eat your lunch at your desk - I mean, there's not much point going out in this weather is there? Check out the Darwin Awards. Apparently this site, which details how people met their ends or nearly met their ends through abject stupidity, has been around for a while, but I've only just come upon it. Definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pet camel kills woman - friskiness suspected

A woman in Australia has been killed by her pet camel. The details of how exactly she died are a bit murky, but according to Yahoo News, "The 10-month-old male - weighing about 150 kilograms (330 pounds) - had knocked her to the ground then lay on top of her in what police suspect was mating behaviour."

Apparently the camel had previously almost suffocated the family’s pet goat by straddling it.

It's a horrible story any which way you look at it, but I'm thinking it may well be preferable if the means of death was suffocation as opposed to the result of any sort of, er, mating behaviour.

Continue reading.

Picture posed by a model - not the offending camel! C/o linuxmovies

Monday, August 20, 2007

A conversation overheard on Bond Street

Last week I was in an art gallery on Bond Street. The kind that you can only enter when you have pressed a buzzer, and which more closely resembles the drawing room of a stately home than a shop selling art. These sorts of places are also almost inevitably peopled by stick-thin women wearing Chanel suits and condescending expressions. What can I say? I had an hour to kill, and I like looking at art - the surroundings were negligible.

A man came in about ten minutes after me. I guessed he was Arabic, very well dressed, but not the head honcho. I reckoned he was the assistant to a head honcho. Sensing cash, and a lot of it, the three women working in the shop circled, all red lipsticked smiles. Not unlike the last thing people see before having their lives ended by a great white shark.

Them: How can we help you sir?
Him: I'm looking for a painting
Them: Did you have a particular artist or style in mind?
Him: It has to be 120cm by 50cm (Ed note: this is approx I can't remember the exact figures)
Them: Hmmm (the verbal equivalent of hands rubbing together in gleeful anticipation), that's quite large. Did you have a budget in mind?

Unfortunately I didn't hear the rest of the exchange as I'd already seen everything at that point and was heading out the door.

Had it been anyone else, these women would have looked down their noses at them for being so gauche as to talk about art by the square meter - and probably would have said so too. But as the guy clearly had a lot of money, or access to it, they acted as though the whole thing were perfectly normal. It made me smile to myself because it so reminded me of the scene in 'Hannah and her sisters', where the unforgettable Frederick gets pissed off at the wealthy accountant who, after viewing his work, says he'd prefer something that matched his new designer sofas.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The ones they didn't want you to see

Aren't these great? I'm talking purely from a Photoshop technical point of view of course. These two pics are part of a competition that Worth 1000 ran, the requirement being that users 'detouch' images of celebrities. So no, they are not real, I'm sorry to say. Check out the full collection here.

On the subject of Photoshop and retouching, if you are interested in it from a user/technical perspective, or would just like to see what amazing things you can do with it - and I'm not just talking removing spots and wrinkles from celebs - do check out Worth 1000 - awesome stuff. In fact, I'm so impressed by this site that I plan on doing a regular link to their ongoing Photoshop competitions.

Pictures c/o Worth 1000

Friday, August 17, 2007

When Photoshop is used for evil purposes

OK, I'm not really that paranoid or sad that I'd ever call Photoshop evil. Hell, I've used it myself to remove a bad spot or to tone down a very shiny T-zone from pics in the past. But when it comes to celebrity photos these days, the extent to which they retouch is laughable. And more so, has the rest of us mere mortals lamenting our every (natural) line and blemish, the likes of which are always so noticeably absent in these pics. I mean just to prove my point, the above picture is, believe it or not, supposed to be Britney Spears. It featured recently in a magazine called Allure.

Now I'm not judging the woman's lifestyle or choices, but from a purely observational point of view, those of use who read the tabloid magazines and blogs know that there's no way on god's green earth she looks this good, or in fact, even remotely like this. In reality, the woman is a mess. Well what do you expect if you're going to go out every night and drink your own body weight in alcohol and dabble in other, er, well, substances? That stuff tends to take a toll on the tone and texture of your skin, not to mention the waistline. Then there's the chain smoking, and the mess that is her hair, thanks to those awful extensions (which never ever seem to be blown out). And lest we forget the consistantly appalling dress sense. Yes, I confess, the booze and drugs I pass no comment on, but I most certainly do judge her dress sense. All that money and such terrible terrible clothes. What a waste.

Anyway, I digress... .

Even Keira Knightly
recently confessed that that strangely voluptuous-looking boob in her latest Chanel print ad is not her own and was photshopped in.
She said, "
Those things certainly weren't mine. We had an interesting discussion when they said: 'We want to make them slightly larger and you'll get approval' and I was like: 'OK, fine. I honestly don't give a shit'"

"I don't have any tits, so I can't show cleavage."

We do like Keira, bless her.

And if you still don't believe me (you delusional masochist you), go and take a look at this site I found on Dlisted. It's the professional website of a company called iWANEX that do photographic retouching of celeb pics. If you go to the portfolio section and then pass your mouse over any of the pics, you get a good before and after look.

The pic below is of the singer Kelly Clarkson (click on it to see the larger version). Looks like they've taken her jean size down from a (UK) size 12-14 to an 8. And then there's all these teeny boppers already on a diet so they can look like their idols, when not even their idols look like that.

Here's another non-celeb site that also shows you the power of Photoshop. And there are links to a whole lot more here. Check out these sites, save them, and the next time you think you look like crap, go and pay them a visit . It sure as hell makes me feel a lot better.

Photo (top) c/o Dlisted
Kelly Clarkson before and after photos c/o iWANEX STUDIO

Attention Dermalogica users!

My lovely friend Ans, the one who told us all about Beauty Flash, the website that allows you to buy Dermalogica products for a whopping amount less that in store, has found an even better site. She emailed me this week with the address of a company called the Jersey Beauty Company, which caters to people buying here in the UK and Europe. Sorry America.

I took a look, and here's an example of the savings you get using this site:
Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel (250ml)
RRP: £19.40
Beauty Flash: £15.52 plus £2.00 delivery = £17.52
Jersey Beauty Co: £14.55 (includes delivery charge)
So that's a difference of nearly £3 between these two companies, and when you are buying a few things, that sort of thing quickly adds up.

The moisturiser I use was an even better deal:
Dermalogica Skin Smoothing Cream (100ml)
RRP: £34.00
Beauty Flash: £27.20 plus £2.00 delivery = £29.20
Jersey Beauty Co: £21.50 (includes delivery charge)
That's a massive saving of £7.70!

Ans has already used them and was happy with service and delivery, and I'm going to give them a try this weekend.

A big thank you to Ans for the tip and saving us all some money :-)

Friday update

I realise it's been a while since I last posted, well, a while for someone who usually suffers from blogorrhea at any rate.

Fact is, there's not a lot happening. I've been feeling up and down this week thanks to pregnancy hormones, including a bit of projectile vomiting thrown in just for the hell of it. I'm also feeling fat. Did I mention that? Well if I didn't it's probably because people have a shit fit when you talk about weight these days, even though it's something that's consumed women since the dawn of time. So I know it's pregnancy weight, but that doesn't make it physically feel any better. I used to think that when I got pregnant I'd have this earth mother attitude of eating for two and not care about the pounds piling on, and I've discovered that for me, at any rate, it's not the case.

I don't like being heavier, it feels heavy for one thing, and I'm starting to lose the curves that make me womanly as things sort of spread into a thickened undefined mass. It's not my bump that bothers me - because that's clearly baby. It's more so the weight on my thighs and my backside. And no, I'm not eating a lot, and nor am I eating a load of junk either. It's just a natural sort of process, and from this point on in my pregnancy I'm supposed to gain about 0.5 kilos per week until the end. Egad!

I am however enjoying being pregnant. Or rather, I'm in love with the idea that I have this little life inside of me, and she kicks and moves around a lot these days, and I guess you can say I'm bonding with her. And yes you can hate the extra weight that pregnancy brings and love being pregnant at the same time. I get excited every time I think of that moment they will put her on my chest and I get to meet her face to face for the first time.

It's Roberto's birthday on Sunday - so don't forget to email, Facebook, send text messages all that kind of stuff we tell people we don't really care about but secretly really appreciate. We've got a nice dinner booked on Saturday night, and I'm off this afternoon to sort out some remaining presents. I told him last week that this is his last birthday that he will not be a father - kinda weird when you think of it that way. Had I not been pregnant I would join him in getting sufficiently merry on a good bottle of champagne, but alas I'm going to have to watch enviously as he enjoys a glass or two without me.

Today it's exactly four months to go until our baby is born, that's if I deliver on my so-called due date. Robert and I think she's going to be early, but my sis reckons everyone thinks that. Myleen Klaus had her little girl this week and she was 3.5 weeks early. It happens.

OK - Happy Friday everyone. Let's hope and pray we have some decent rain-free weather this weekend.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Jodie Marsh - Who'll take her up the aisle?

I watched a couple of taped episodes of the new MTV series, 'Jodie Marsh - Who'll take her up the aisle?'

The whole thing is sad. Not sad in a judgemental sarcastic way, but genuinely sad in terms of how revealing it is. Jodie comes across as surprisingly real and unpretentious in front of the camera, and not always in a flattering way either. This allows you a glimpse into the personality of someone who seems genuinely lost as to what, or rather who, is good for her. I don't think she has a particularly high sense of self esteem, and one needn't look further than some of her ex boyfriends and their appalling treatment of her for evidence of this. Clearly she had a part in those relationship disasters too - most destructive dynamics are co-created even if the person on the receiving end is contributing to it simply by believing they don't in fact deserve any better.

Interestingly, although I don't think it's a good idea to interview and go on dates with men solely with the intention of getting a proposal for a TV show within a restricted timeline, I think the sort of issues she has just in terms of dating and being choiceful is something a lot of women and men who are dating can relate to.

There's one scene where she's talking across the table to her friends about what her 'requirements are' and her best friend interjects with something to the effect of, "That's your problem there - you have far too many requirements and you write off someone immediately if they don't meet one of them, instead of just seeing what happens." I'm inclined to agree, at least in part with her friend, but I'd also say some requirements are necessary - such as: Kindness, someone that is considerate and respectful, and someone who has the same core values as you. I think these things are indicative of a person's character and are fundamentally important, at least a lot more important than superficial requirements such as: He must make millions, look like George Clooney, have huge muscles, drive a sports car, and be able to wrestle a bear to the floor.

Some of it is painful to watch - like her PA's trying to bag loads of free stuff for the 'wedding', or her referring to herself as a celebrity and slagging off 'people who are famous for doing nothing like Abi Titmuss.' Erm, yes Jodie, and that makes you what again? However, it's interesting to watch in terms of the whole dating thing, and also refreshing to see someone that is so willing to bear themselves warts and all in front of the cameras.

Surprisingly entertaining albeit of the car-crash TV variety at times.

Photo: Dlisted

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Traveller wedding

I didn't know about Travellers here in the UK (also known as Tinkers) until I saw a documentary on TV about a Traveller wedding. These girls put Jordan to shame, in that despite what are clearly limited incomes, their dad's don't bat an eyelid to splash out something like 12 thousand pounds on wedding dresses. And when it comes to the latter, there only appears to be one guideline: The bigger, the better.

I found this clip on Dlisted which shows you just how insanely over the top the dresses get. Also, it's worth noting some of the guests outfits which are, er, colourful to say the least.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Keep it clean

Lol! I love it when I encounter another person with crazy hygiene/cleanliness issues like mine. And even better if that person is a celebrity. It makes me feel so much less like a freak, knowing there are other better-paid freaks out there.

In a recent interview with Elle Magazine, Terence Howard (the cute one from Crash), had this to say about what he would consider a deal breaker with a woman:

"Toilet paper - and no baby wipes - in the bathroom. If they're using dry paper, they aren't washing all of themselves. It's just unclean. So if I go in a woman's house and see the toilet paper there, I'll explain this. And if she doesn't make the adjustment to baby wipes, I'll know she's not completely clean."
Continue reading.

I don't remember Robert having any baby wipes in his loo when we first met, so clearly I'm not as gung-ho as Terence, but our bathroom is most definitely stocked with them now. Actually, the whole baby/wet wipe thing in the loo is a relatively new discovery for me, and a great one I might add. I remember they started making them here in the UK for kids a couple of years back, a brand called Kando, and I thought: What a brilliant idea. How nice to have something wet and slightly soapy that cleans your bottom after you go to the loo. Now they do adult ones too and ones that are flush friendly. These are also ideal if you are at work, in a public place, or travelling.

On a separate, yet related note, at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, they had a display of a kitchen showing how germs and dangerous things like Salmonella are spread. It made me feel a lot better about my own almost surgical approach to food preparation. Raw chicken seems to be a big culprit in the spread of germs in the kitchen. According to the display you should never use the same knife or cutting board for other things after using them on raw chicken or meat. Also - be very careful about washing things directly in the sink, especially after dealing with raw meat, fish or chicken - this is how cross-contamination occurs.

Personally I wash everything before I prepare it - including pre-washed salads. Naturally I don't wash things like mince, but basically everything else gets a good rinse, especially fish and chicken. But again, this is done by hand directly under the tap, not left to sit in the sink, and veg and salad are rinsed separately in a colander that doesn't get into direct contact with the sink. I wash my hands
frequently between touching raw meat and other food or kitchen implements, and also always keep my sink clean with household bleach.

Extreme? Yes, it probably is. But after four colleagues and I got violently ill at a so-called posh London restaurant one evening, with only the bread as the common denominator among all of us, it goes to show how germs can spread in a kitchen.

According to the display, and I think it's a generally well-known fact anyway, things like kitchen sponges and wash clothes are a breeding ground for bacteria and should be replaced regularly. You can also place a damp sponge in the microwave for about 2 minutes which zaps a good 99% of bacteria apparently.

Robert reckons one shouldn't be too anal about hygiene with kids as they need to develop an immune system. I hear that, and I appreciate what he's saying, but I imagine a lot of that will happen of it's own accord when they are on the playground picking up horrible things and putting them in their mouths, and from contact with animals, and from contracting germs from other kids and even adults. Though not pleasant to imagine, that's life and pretty much describes an average tube visit for most people, and I'm OK with that - just about. I definitely don't plan on compromising on kitchen and bathroom hygiene though. I just don't think a spot of Salmonella poisoning is something I want to have to deal with in addition to chicken pox.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Nicole Richie talks to Diane Sawyer about her pregnancy

OK, so maybe I'm kinda preoccupied with baby stuff at the moment, but come on, aren't you just a bit curious about the whole Nicole Richie pregnancy too? Well here she is talking to Diane Sawyer, and showing off her bump! She still looks thin, but healthy in the face, though that could also be a good makeup job. Either way, I wish her well and a healthy pregnancy and baby.

If you can't see the clip, click here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Photos from America

In am attempt to battle jetlag, I've posted my holiday snaps on Flicker:

New York photos here. This particular image is part of a brilliant installation at MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art in New York), by artist Dan Perjovschi entitled, 'What happened to us? 2007.' You can read more about this very thought provoking piece of work here, and definitely worth going to see if you are in the city.

Philadelphia pics here. This image is part of a giant mosaic installation that fills the wall of a parking lot. Personally I think it was wasted in that location. Really beautiful.

West Virginia pics here. This image is one of many I took while browsing through various vintage shops in town. These shops are massive - as big as warehouses, and the bric a brac overflows on a seemingly endless configuration of rabbit warren displays. It's impossible to go through in an hour or two and feel as though you've had an opportunity to view everything. There is a strange sense of melancholy and decay to a lot of the objects. It was also a somewhat bizarre experience being surrounded by what were effectively pieces of so many different people's lives, and lot of these long since gone from this world.

Back in London

I have never, ever, returned to London from a holiday to such hot and sunny weather. It really makes all the difference to a home-coming. Most of the time, even in summer, there will be overcast and a bit of rain, and you think to yourself, 'OK, here we go,' - a feeling you associate with all the unpleasantness of returning to the mundane reality of work and day to day admin. But today, well, it's just beautiful, and so very hot.

We were also very pleased to see that our house hadn't burnt down or flooded in our absence, and I felt a real sense of happiness and excitement when I came in the front door. This surprised me a bit, because I had been feeling a bit down about returning home, mostly I think because we had such a good holiday in America, and also because I touched base with two very old and dear friends, which makes me realise that sometimes I can still be a bit lonely in London. I think this has more to do with me becoming a hermit in the past few months thanks to my bad morning sickness, rather than my friends here who, to their credit, never stop harassing me to go out.

Also, I am feeling a lot better and healthier than when we left - which is also just a part of the whole pregnancy development process I think. I am well into my second trimester now, and aside from one or two things I still don't care for (onion, garlic, large pieces of meat - like steaks, and fish), I'm pretty much OK with most foods and smells. I still get quite tired, and sometimes I need to sit down, but aside from that, I'm feeling good. (Knocks firmly on wood). As for looking good, well, um - that's a different story. My bump is huge and I've developed a distinctive waddle.

America was, as ever, enjoyable. We especially enjoyed visiting West Virginia with our friends Theo and Lowri. We stayed in a beautiful log cabin out in the woods (with all mod-cons naturally - this girl don't do the outdoors otherwise), and just took time out to catch up, cook and eat good food, and peruse some of the local antique shops. The latter were a real experience by the way - huge places, almost as big as warehouses, with row upon row of the oddest brick a brac. One of these places had a collection of Life magazines dating back to the 30's - all in mint condition. Then there was the stuffed baboon, the disturbing antique dolls with their faded features, moth-eaten vintage fur stoles, and lots lots more. I took quite a few pictures of these things, and will post them up on my Flicker account a bit later. Fascinating, morbid, dusty, and compelling stuff.

For once I didn't do very much shopping, for myself that is. The way I figure it, I'm only pregnant for a few more months (four), so no point in going mad on maternity clothes. I did however get our little girl a nice collection of items, which I have to wash and put away in her room. I didn't realise you always had to wash little one's clothes before they wore them, but apparently you do. Fortunately a lot of it doesn't require ironing.

My Google diary is filled with things that needing doing this week, including a new website, which will no doubt throw me back into the swing of work whether I like it or not. Plus there's nursery furniture to investigate and a maternity nurse to interview... . It's good to be home.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


We are in Maryland, Washington, visiting our friends Theo and Lowri.

We left Philadelphia thinking it was a place with interesting things to do, but didn't really find it a city that we warmed to. The Mutter museum (part of the Philadelphia Institute of Physicians) was truly interesting, but had I known there would be jar upon jar filled with foetus's at different stages of development, not to mention those that had experienced some defects and trauma (two headedness, missing limbs, strangulation via the umbilical cord etc), I probably wouldn't have gone.

The museum was certainly put together in good taste and it is, after all, a place for learning, but some of it was very sad in terms of the suffering those people must have endured as a result of their illnesses, and was hard on the constitution. Also, I couldn't help feeling that they should have been laid to rest and not be on display - but again, this is a deeply personal opinion and I realise it is thanks to them and others like them that the lives of others can be saved and helped.

Maryland, where our friends live, specifically in a neighbourhood called Cheverly, is very green, leafy and suburban. The houses are incredibly pretty, with well-tended to front lawns. It is the sort of place where you can sleep with the front or back door open and not worry about it. Yesterday I accompanied Lowri to the co-op to get some groceries, and a woman who tends to the trolleys - sporting sideburns and a mean after five shadow, happened upon my accent and began reeling off everything she knew that was English. She told me what a fan she was of the late Princess Diana, and the Spice Girls. "Especially Sporty Spice - she was my faaaaavourite!" she said, doing something that I imagined was a Spice Girl dance move to emphasise the point. I told her it was her lucky day as the girls were doing another tour, and she got really excited saying her birthday was coming soon.

Robert spent the day with Theo at the Smithsonian Air & Space museum, which is apparently huge and spectacular, while Lowri and I did a bit of shopping - or rather, Junior got loads of stuff.

Today we are off to a cabin in West Virginia for a couple of days to do some hiking, browsing antique shops, and general R&R.